Greatest Moments, No. 23: Cavarretta's 'Greatest Day in Baseball'

By Chris Rewers on Sunday, January 2, 2011

(Editor's Note: Eighth in a series recalling the 30 greatest moments in Cubs history.)

Poor Phil Cavarretta.

On July 22, 1951, Cavarretta, the pride of Lane Tech High School, was rewarded for his 18 outstanding years of service with the Cubs when owner Philip K. Wrigley named him player-manager.

Thanks a lot, Mr. Wrigley.

Phil Cavarretta.jpg

Phil Cavarretta

An awful Cubs team was 35-45, in seventh place, 16.5 games behind the front-running Dodgers. They had traded away their best player, Andy Pafko, to the Dodgers on June 15 and gotten little in return. The Cubs won a 14-inning contest at Philadelphia in Cavarretta's managerial debut, but then lost their next six.

When a boss wants to make sure that a job gets done right, he has to do it himself.

The 34-year-old Cavarretta could not have provided his team with a better example than he did when the Cubs hosted the defending National League champion Phillies for a doubleheader on July 29.

Philadelphia pitchers had authored shutouts in each of their four previous games while the Cubs entered the game without scoring a run in 31 consecutive innings. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, who was aiming for his 14th victory of the season, was the Phillies' Game 1 starter.

Cavarretta inserted himself in the Cubs' lineup at first base in the opener. He went 1-for-4 and drove in three with two of those RBI coming on a sixth inning triple off Roberts.

The Cubs halted their six-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory. Hal Jeffcoat scored the winning run from third in the bottom of the ninth when Philadelphia shortstop Granny Hamner committed an error.

Chuck Connors got the start at first in the nightcap and responded by going 3-for-4, but the Cubs trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh. The North Siders pulled within a run on an RBI single by Ransom Jackson and tied the game on a double by Connors.

Philadelphia manager Eddie Sawyer called upon Game 1 starter Roberts (isn't that great?). Roberts intentionally walked Smoky Burgess to load the bases and Cavarretta inserted himself to pinch hit for pitcher Dutch Leonard.

Cavarretta had never hit a grand slam

But he pulled a Roberts fastball into the right-field bleachers and the Cubs held on for a dramatic 8-6 victory.

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